Our working environments have always needed to be safe, but now more than ever they have to be thoroughly clean and assured. Here are six steps that you need to address before opening your business.
Better cleaning standardsEmployers like yourselves will need to ensure that all of your workplaces are clean and assured. Your employees will expect facilities to remain at a high levels of cleanliness if they are to come back to work. You will need to adopt rigours cleaning practices, which is being outlined by the HSE and the government.
These practices will also need to be rooted into your workforce and rules and procedures will need to be followed by employers and colleagues alike. Tasks like hand-washing and cleaning techniques for equipment could become part of your daily routine. Therefore, it is important to be transparent and your business might need to be audited to help maintain these high standards. We also might get to a point where regulators set a minimum standard for cleanliness, which must be adhered to.
More PPE will need to be introduced into the workplace, things like gloves and face masks could become the norm, especially those in customer facing environments. Barriers in gyms and offices could also find their way into your workplace. Heating and air filtration might also need reviewing and upgrading.
An extra focus on managing employee healthEmployees might have to be regularly tested and screened for COVID-19 symptoms, depending on our employee occupation. However, this will likely cause privacy and employment law concerns. You should consider creating risk plans for in case someone becomes unwell or develops symptoms whilst at work.
You should consider leave policies and how to manage employ absences. Assess what measures are in place to address anything related to COVID-19. Revisions to these polices might include the need to self-isolate for the government specified amount of time and how people are looked after during this period. This will be require some planning to find the right balance, but ultimately you don’t want someone returning to work who could make others sick.
In the short term you should expect an increased level of health monitoring which could become a part of how businesses operate. This could include active monitoring of colleague health and symptoms, through to screening and temperature readings, which again could open up concerns about privacy.
In the longer term, telemedicine is likely is likely to see an increase in demand. Although telemedicine benefits are understood and have been around for a while, it’s now expected to become more of the norm, given the stress on current healthcare systems and the ease of connecting to a medical expert from your home device.
Reduced numbers and distancing in officesIn some office environments “hot desking” is a popular approach to maximise office space capacity and reduce overheads, but the days of shared office equipment and close quarters seating could be over. New equipment might be introduced like protective desk dividers and stocks of PPE and other essentials like hand wash. This will also likely mean expectations and office behaviour will change to keep distances and good hygiene.
Most businesses will start with reduced employee numbers in offices and phase the return of staff, there is also likely to be a review of office space in general and if people can now work from home permanently. You should evaluate shift schedules and rotations to minimise exposure, banning or postponing large meetings will also be likely. Eating areas and lunch schedules will also need to be reviewed to ensure distances are kept.
Remote working and social distancingWe expect remote working to see a big increase in popularity and in some cases becoming the new norm. The many office space restrictions and government guidelines will prevent all staff from returning to the office quickly and businesses might want to consider if as much office space is necessary going forward. The technology to enable staff to work from home has been around for a while, and although there is some upfront investment to start operating this way, due to the pandemic some businesses now have the technology to do this.The outcome of this is likely to be a reduction in travel, there will be changes in commuting habits, ride-sharing will disappear and public transport will see a decrease. Virtual technologies and working home will play a more vital role for businesses.
Post pandemic preparedness
The pandemic has highlighted sectors that already have robust strategies in place to deal with a global crisis such as the food industry and their supply chains, but also those that have not been able to cope. One key learning is that we have to be more prepared for global crisis like pandemics and it’s important that you have the correct policies and practices ready to go when they are needed.
This means having good IT infrastructure and a workforce that can mobilise to work from home on short notice. Ensure that you have a robust supply chain and a range of backup suppliers. At a more tactical level, ensuring that you have PPE and essential equipment in stock. Equally important educate your workforce and change behaviours based on learnings from top to bottom of your business.
Returning to the workplace safely guide
If you’d like to take a more in-depth look at the issues relating to returning to the workplace safety, Marsh has put together a practical guide for managing COVID-19 that you can download here. This guide will help you identify your readiness to return to the workplace, develop a plan and to implement the changes.
Post Pandemic Preparedness Report